LinkedIn: Musings on $LNKD

On LinkedIn’s Q1 earnings call yesterday, the firm boasted that their Sales Solutions products grew revenue 55% year-over-year with sales products now constituting 40% of Premium Subscription divisional revenues.  Thus, LinkedIn Sales Navigator revenues were around $60 million last quarter.  This is an impressive number given the short period of time the product has been available.  It also suggests that Sales Navigator is by far the largest Sales Intelligence product on the market.

The funny thing is, when I talk to other vendors in the Sales Intelligence space, LinkedIn remains low on their competitive threat list.  They simply aren’t seeing them much as competitors.  Perhaps their customers are licensing both Sales Navigator and their solutions, but I’m not sure about that.  Doing so would be an expensive proposition.

This is a square I have yet to circle.


LinkedIn, which laid an egg last quarter after announcing much more conservative guidance than the analysts expected, raised its full year guidance by two percentage points and had beats on earnings and revenue.  The market obviously overreacted to its lower than expected FY 2016 revenue guidance on the Q4 call, but LinkedIn generally guides low.  The problem with hyper-growth stocks is the moment the growth trajectory slows, the expected revenues and future cash flows decline by a compounded factor.  Thus, several years of stock price growth can be wiped out overnight.  There is a reason analysts often say these stocks are “priced to perfection.”


LinkedIn announced a set of small-ball enhancements to its Sales Navigator service in Q1.  The firm mentioned some improvements to their CRM connectors on the earnings call, but didn’t provide any details.  There were some non-discussed features that were covered on a SlideShare presentation a few days ago.

The best new Sales Navigator feature is a set of Spotlight filters for prospecting.  These LinkedIn-specific filters appear at the top of the results page.  Navigator users can now screen for executives and managers who have

  • Shared experiences (e.g. groups, education, companies, etc.) with the sales rep
  • Changed jobs (company or title) in the past ninety days
  • Posted on LinkedIn in the past thirty days
Sales Navigator's new Spotlight filters leverage member intelligence to identify contacts more likely to respond to your InMail.
Sales Navigator’s new Spotlight filters leverage member intelligence to identify contacts more likely to respond to your InMail.

These Spotlight filters help identify individuals who are more likely to respond to InMails due to similar affinities, job changes, or active LinkedIn participation.  Spotlight filters, like TeamLink, are a good example of the firm leveraging its unique content sets to provide value added Solution Selling features instead of taking a me-too approach.

LinkedIn added five other new filters to their side panel of selects including “Leads that Follow Your Company on LinkedIn.”  This filter lends itself to strong messaging concerning displayed interest in your company (e.g. “I see that you follow us on LinkedIn.  How did you hear about us?”).

The other new filters are “Exclude my Saved Leads,” “Years in Current Position,” “Years at Current Company,” and “Company Type” (e.g. Private, Public, Partnership, Educational, Nonprofit, Government Agency, Self-Owned, and Self-Employed).

Other enhancements include multi-ZIP screening, notifying the user when a lead views his or her profile, and shifting Navigator accounts to different contracts.  All of these are welcome feature additions, but small-ball upgrades unlikely to grow the business.

Navigator added an update message that flags leads who have recently viewed user profiles.
Navigator added an update message that flags leads who have recently viewed your profile.

And contract shifting is potentially problematic.  If a sales rep joins a company, the firm can invoice the employer instead of the rep (good).  However, if a rep leaves the firm, he or she can assume the contract for their account (potentially very bad).  Thus, a sales rep can maintain a digital rolodex of leads and customers within Sales Navigator and take it to his or her next employer.  The sales rep would be delighted by this opportunity, but the former employer is potentially making it easier for a rep to walk across the street to a competitor with their book of business.

ABM: The Art of the Start (Avention)

This morning, sales and marketing intelligence vendor Avention unveiled a survey and set of recommendations on implementing Account Based Marketing strategies.  ABM is quickly moving from a buzzword to an actionable strategy for strategically targeting your best customers and prospects.  If you are considering an ABM strategy or researching how to move forward with ABM, Avention’s “Account-Based Marketing: The Art of the Start – Leveraging a Strong Data Foundation to Fuel ABM Success” guide is now available.

The Avention Survey of over 100 top level B2B executives (e.g. CEO, CMO, VP of Sales) found that ABM strategies require “careful data-driven planning, execution and monitoring.”  Furthermore, the lack of data access and quality are “fundamental impediments” that need to be resolved for ABM strategies to succeed.

ABM is based upon strategic targeting of your best accounts and similar companies.  If your underlying data is poor you will have problems with best customer cloning, account messaging, and drilling deeper into organizations for cross-sell and upsell.  Furthermore, “once a program is started, it is essential that account and market news and events be monitored to ensure programs remain relevant.”

Todd Berkowitz, research vice president for Gartner1 wrote in a January report, “By getting a better view of customer data, creating predictive models, employing account-based marketing, and creating internal and external-facing content specifically for existing customers, even marketing leaders from smaller providers can increase the likelihood of success.”

90% of the surveyed B2B execs believe that ABM is relevant to their organization and 86% are confident that ABM will drive growth; however, 75% are having trouble finding the appropriate contacts for selling deeper into target organizations, and more than fifty percent of B2B marketers lack an ability to monitor and adjust programs directed towards ABM accounts due to a lack of real-time intelligence.

AV ABM Survey
ABM Survey of B2B Executives republished with permission from Avention.

Avention noted that ABM is a long-term strategy that requires continuously updated account and contact intelligence if campaigns are to remain relevant.  For example, messages and offers may need to be adjusted due to key events such as executive changes.

Avention CEO Steve Pogorzelski summarized the ABM implementation problems found in the survey:

Almost two-thirds of the marketers responding to our survey report not having access to a single source of truth for customer data.  This obviously impedes starting an ABM program and running it to successful conclusion, as such programs demand access to accurate and continually updated market and account data.  ABM offers enterprises the opportunity to quickly fuel their customer acquisition, growth and retention strategies.

Pogorzelski noted that Avention provides three capabilities which support sales, marketing, and sales operations ABM responsibilities:

  • Marketing: “Consolidation and visualization of in-house customer data for sophisticated segmentation.” (For more on these capabilities, see my February blog on the launch of their DataVision platform).
  • Sales: Strategic intelligence concerning companies and contacts along with predictive indicators.
  • Sales Operations: CRM and Marketing Automation ecosystem connectivity.

Finally, I would note that traditional approaches to marketing data quality which involve annual data cleanses are insufficient to meet ABM and predictive marketing needs.  Marketing data, particularly contacts, ages quickly.  The lack of a continuous data quality strategy will result in a drop-off in sales and marketing productivity as contact and company data decays.

1 Gartner, Tech-Go-to-Market: Four Ways Marketers can Generate Demand with Existing Accounts, January 29, 2016


Full Disclosure: I broadly advise companies across the sales intelligence space including Avention.  While I periodically write commissioned blogs for Avention, none of my commentary on my own blog or social media accounts is commissioned.

Account Based Sales Development

Yesterday, I posted a blog on Avention’s website concerning Account Based Sales Development which discusses how sales development is being converted to a knowledge-based function:

Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) is the latest twist on Account Based Marketing (ABM).  ABSD takes account targeting down to the sales development role and shifts sales development staff away from smile-and-dial cold calling across many weak prospects to a targeted focus on your best candidates.  As such, it raises the knowledge level and professionalism of Sales Development Reps (SDRs).  With ABSD, SDRs are no longer tied to a script.

Traditional sales development was often relegated to inexperienced sales reps or specialists that excelled in cold calling and appointment setting.  The success rate was low so sales development reps needed thick skins and persistence.

But ABSD begins with the premise that the sales development goal is not to call across as many prospects as possible, but to deeply penetrate your best prospects.  As such, the cost of researching best prospects is shared across many calls, making it affordable to amortize the research across many calls into the same target account.  Thus, “strategic focus allows the rep to allocate the front-end research effort across many touchpoints.  Furthermore, by targeting best fit accounts with customized messaging, the likelihood of garnering a response is significantly higher.”

The Avention Company Profile provides a quick overview of the company (e.g. location, firmographics, business description), social media links, an Ideal Profile Score, family trees, execs, news, sales triggers, SWOTs and additional insights to support informed calls into ABSD targets.
The Avention Company Profile provides a quick overview of the company (e.g. location, firmographics, business description), social media links, an Ideal Profile Score, family trees, execs, news, sales triggers, SWOTs, technology profiles, and additional insights to support informed calls into ABSD targets.

The number of B2B information services firms now messaging around ABM and ABSD is astonishing.  Two years ago, programmatic marketing firm DemandBase was the only voice discussing this strategy.  Now you will find it is a method being discussed by marketing automation, predictive analytics, and sales intelligence firms.  There is even a new set of firms focused on ABSD as a product offering including SalesLoft, QuotaFactory, and KiteDesk.  While Sales Genie and Colabo haven’t picked up the banner of ABSD as yet, they have products that also support this approach.

 

Data.com: Price Reduction & Product Line Simplification

The Data.com Corporate Hierarchy Viewer displays the Dun & Bradstreet family tree. Users can add any location as an account. The tree also shows sizing variables and SFDC account owners.
The Data.com Corporate Hierarchy Viewer displays the Dun & Bradstreet family tree. Users can add any location as an account. The tree also shows sizing variables and SFDC account owners.

Data.com has simplified its pricing from two tiers to a single tier for both its sales intelligence Prospector service and its data hygiene Clean offering.   All Prospector users now receive the full Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase record for $150 per seat per month.  The full Dun & Bradstreet file was previously priced at $165 per seat per month as part of the Premium offering.  Corporate users will see the price rise from $125 to $150 but will receive the following additional content and capabilities due to the product unification:

  • Corporate family linkages with domestic and global ultimate parents
  • Corporate family hierarchy viewer
  • Up to six total SIC/NAICS industry classification codes
  • Account tradestyle (Doing Business As)
  • Account delinquency risk (High/Medium/Low)
  • Account latitude and longitude
  • Hoover’s First Research call prep content for imported and matched company records
  • Additional Hoover’s data/content, including Net Income, Industry Opportunities and Competitive Landscape

Users are still limited to 300 uploaded or downloaded records per user per month.  Additional records are priced at $0.65 per record, unchanged from the previous premium offering.  Data.com counts both company and contact records towards the monthly limit.  Additional download record credits are not subject to monthly usage limits and may be allocated to Prospector accounts at the Salesforce Administrator’s discretion.

The Clean service price is now $25 per user per month for all users in the instance.  All Clean users now receive the full WorldBase file.  By standardizing clean to a single edition, Data.com has reduced the price of Clean Premium from $35 to $25.

Simplifying the product bundles makes sense.  For premium users, there is a small price cut while there is a price rise for corporate users of Prospector but not Clean.  As a premium to Salesforce, having two Data.com editions probably complicated sales discussions unnecessarily.

Lowering the price of Clean also makes sense as higher data quality raises the overall value of the CRM for sales, marketing, and support.  Marketing enjoys better segmentation and targeting while sales benefits from improved company intelligence for qualification and fewer misrouted leads.  Sales and support also benefit from the better population of contact information (e.g. direct dials, phones) and flags when an individual is no longer affiliated with the account.

While the price reduction makes Prospector more competitive with other Sales Intelligence solutions, Prospector remains at the upper end of the market.  For example, InsideView for CRM is priced at $995 per annum, 44% below the price of Data.com Prospector.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

The task of software product developers has become increasingly difficult.  It used to be that marketing could “put lipstick on a pig” and sell a poorly designed product based upon futures, a few cool features, and a high ROI claim.  But increasing competition and higher user expectations make dressing up a weak product more difficult for several reasons:

  1. Buyers do much of their research up front, so marketers and sales no longer control the narrative.  Purchasers are now able to frame their requirements and conduct much of their basic research before raising their hands.
  2. Review sites such as G2 Crowd and TrustRadius provide input on what users like and dislike about software products.  If there is a disconnect between promises and reality, these problems will be surfaced.  If there are connectivity, performance, or scaling issues, these will also be flagged. (Warning: be wary of reviews that are manufactured by vendor campaigns.  Look at the review dates and note if reviews are tightly bunched in time or if a small vendor has several fold more reviews than its larger competitors.  These reviews are often derived by campaigns, some with rewards, for reviews.)
  3. We’ve all come to appreciate great design thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple.  Most of us are not experts in what makes for great design, but we are much better at identifying poor design, balky workflows, and ugly interfaces.
  4. Competition is fierce.  In the Marketing Technology space, Scott Brinker identified approximately 3,500 Martech vendors in his 2016 graphic, up 87% over 2015.  That is a large gaggle of voices calling for attention.
"Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)" courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.
“Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)” courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.

Products rarely succeed if they are backed by poor marketing.  But is increasingly difficult for poor products to gain traction by marketing alone.  Firms now must tie strong marketing to strong design and an unmet user need.  A company like SalesLoft identified an underserved market (Sales Development professionals) and gave them “sincerity at scale.”  Likewise, DemandBase was talking about Account Based Marketing for years (and supporting it with their programmatic marketing platform) before other vendors recognized the value of targeting your best clients and prospects.

In a blog, Gartner VP of XXX Jake Sorofman warned marketers:

When your value proposition, use cases and features are all in perfect harmony with a high-value need, customers take notice. You’ve won their minds. When the user experience doesn’t just fulfill these use cases, but does so with artful simplicity and deep respect for the user, you’ve won their hearts, too.

So be wary of the firms that sell features over value, that promise ROI with gauzy claims of indirect benefits, or that fail to understand the underlying needs of their customers.  A pig with lipstick is still just a pig.

InsideView: Refreshing its SFDC Connector

IV Refresh

Refresh, InsideView’s Salesforce enrichment service, exited beta and is now generally available to customers.  Their AppExchange service provides automatic, continuous updates to CRM records “so that marketers and sellers can improve their response rates, get more qualified leads, and win more deals.”

The service updates incorrect information, appends missing fields, and provides duplicate management.  To ensure administrative control, Refresh supports a “rule-based system with overrides.”  Up to 40 fields are refreshed.  Admins may also setup custom fields for enrichment.  Salesforce Admins set the frequency to daily, weekly, or monthly.

One of the initial features is the ability to segment your database with different enrichment rules and update frequencies.  Accounts can only be assigned to a single segment with a maximum of five segments.  Outside of segmenting by international region or corporate divisions, I’m not sure why sales operations would set different rules for different accounts.  It seems like a way to overly complicate data hygiene management.

The system provides admins two sets of alerts: the first notifies that matching has completed, and the second provides enrichment counts by fields.

InsideView Refresh email alerts notify the SFDC Admin that updates are pending approval.
InsideView Refresh email alerts notify the SFDC Admin that updates are pending approval.

Match scores are employed with a score of 100 assigned to any manually matched records (either by the admin or sales rep).  Scores at or above 70 are viewed as auto-matched and enriched.  Scores of 31 to 69 are available for review but not automatically enriched.

Subscription hygiene services provide broad-based benefits across multiple functions and workflows.  In their product video, InsideView states that if companies don’t clean their marketing databases “it can severely choke your revenue operations.  Poor data quality leads to lost productivity and lower revenue.  For sales, it means wasted time and lost opportunities; for marketing, it means lower response rates and a shrinking pipeline; and for business operations, it means you’re on the hook to clean up the mess.  You can’t afford to ignore the problem, yet most businesses aren’t prepared to address the complexity of their data and systems.”

The InsideView database currently spans 12 million prospectable companies and 30 million contacts.  Company data is licensed from Equifax, Business Week (Capital IQ), Cortera, and Reuters.  Additional contact data appears to be mined from the web though they are unclear about the sourcing now that NetProspex no longer provides contacts.  They also offer a set of Community records which were “added or last updated using data that has been shared by InsideView users.”  These contacts are verified by content editors.

The new service puts InsideView directly in competition with Salesforce’s Data.com Clean native offering for ongoing match and append.  Data.com has an advantage in company coverage as it offers the Dun & Bradstreet global WorldBase file.  With respect to contacts, InsideView offers fewer US contacts and emails but a broader set of international contacts.  Neither service supports hygiene features such as email verification, address standardization, phone validation, or duplicate merge / purge (both have duplicate detection during record entry).  Each claims standardization, but that is for records that are being enriched.

Both services also offer sales products (Data.com Prospector and InsideView for CRM), with InsideView having a clear advantage in several key sales intelligence categories (e.g. sales triggers, bios, social media “buzz”, a who knows who tool).  The exception for sales intelligence is with respect to family trees (Dun & Bradstreet linkage is much deeper than Capital IQ linkage in InsideView) and industry content where InsideView offers thin overviews while Data.com now displays First Research industry overviews spanning 1,000 industries.

“When your CRM data is out of date, marketing targets the wrong contacts, accounts are assigned to the wrong territory, and salespeople waste valuable time,” said Jenny Cheng, chief product officer at InsideView. “We’re thrilled to announce the general availability of InsideView Refresh, the best way to update your CRM data to keep your lead-to-revenue operations working effectively.”

Pricing was not disclosed.

SalesLoft: Account Based Sales Development

A few months ago, I had not heard the term “Account Based Sales Development,” but it seems to have been rapidly adopted by several companies focused on tools for teams of sales development reps.  The term is an extension of the Account Based Marketing (ABM) methodology into the middle of the funnel.  Logically, the targeted focus of ABM programs, combined with predictive lead scoring, should be supported after opportunities are marketing qualified.  Thus, was born ABSD.

Traditional marketing is  volume based.  How many opportunities can we warm up?  How many are marketing qualified and forwarded onto sales?  But a volume approach lacks personalization.  It uses blast emails in a “spray and pray” approach to hit numerical targets.  The problem with this approach is that non-personalized emails are generally ignored.  While the approach might uncover a few more leads, it does so at the risk of tarnishing B2B brands, hurting email sender scores, and pushing low-yield opportunities down to your sales team (for them to ignore).

One of the most prominent advocates of ABSD is SalesLoft which built its Cadence product in support of ABSD:

SalesLoft defines Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) as “a sales development approach in which prospective customer accounts are treated as markets of one, reached through hyper-personalized, targeted campaigns.” “Markets of one?” Sounds like a lot of effort for one prospective account. But it makes sense, considering the great shift in buying habits that’s been happening since the advent of the Internet. In order to become successful with ABSD, you need to deliver sincerity and personalization at scale. It’s a significant change in the way marketing supports sales, how sales supports the business and management’s expectations of activity and results from the revenue team.

Sincerity at scale sounds like an oxymoron, but the Cadence platform is designed for custom campaigns managed by the sales reps.  Thus, marketing can setup and tune the messaging and campaign steps, but sales reps may adjust prospect messaging during the campaign.  Hence “sincerity at scale.”

SL
SalesLoft Cadence allows marketing to define campaigns which are managed by sales reps.

“While ABM’s best delivery tools are tools and technology platforms for content, ads and emails, the sales development rep (SDR) is the key in ABSD,” noted SalesLoft in an e-book.  “Sure, the SDR might have tools to help them do their job. But without personalized, sincere and professional communication, it doesn’t matter how good an SDR’s work ethic might be. They’ll fail in ABSD.”

To assist with personalization, SalesLoft launched its Sales Development Cloud earlier this month.  The partner hub provides company and contact content sets from DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Owler, RingLead, and Datanyze.  Other vendors provide advice on tone (Crystal personality profiles), customized email signatures (Sigstr), and conversational highlights (ExecVision).

One method for accomplishing such sincerity is switching the SDR focus from a single lead to an account.  This process reorientation allows the rep to leverage her research across many prospective buyers and influencers at an account instead of working a single opportunity thread.  Matt Amundson, the Senior Director of Sales Development at Everstring, described this shift on LinkedIn:

Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) employs a similar strategy to hyper-personalization. The SDR still does high-level research on an organization, referencing an organization’s content released in blogs, social channels, and press releases.  The delta here is utilizing the same research across multiple prospects throughout an organization, instead of just one.  That means the same 20 minutes of research is infinitely more valuable and far more scalable.  A SDR focuses on the entire account by multi-threading, instead of just reaching out to a single lead.

For several years, ABM was an idea pushed by DemandBase at the very top of the funnel to identify anonymous individuals at targeted companies for programmatic campaigns.  The idea gained more traction as predictive analytics firms began to discuss ABM as part of their ideal profiles and scoring tools.  For them, ABM was a descriptor of the process of cherry picking the best opportunities within your funnel and finding net-new similar leads.  Thus, ABM became a method for strategic account targeting by the marketing department.  With ABSD, this focus on the best opportunities with targeted messaging has now worked its way to the middle of the funnel.

SalesLoft is not the only sales acceleration vendor discussing ABSD.  The term is also being propagated by QuotaFactory and KiteDesk.